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Riceland ‘sprouts up,’ buyers respond

April 24, 2024

They’re going vertical at Riceland.

Hundreds of home-building construction workers are raising walls and tacking down roofing plywood on dozens of houses sprouting up in the first phase of the master planned Mont Belvieu housing development at the corner of Eagle Drive and Eagle Pointe Boulevard.

Developers expect the entire 1,420-acre Riceland project will steadily grow to 4,000 new homes and amenities like recreation buildings, pools, a park system, a city center and 30 miles of hike and bike trails.   

Randy Hopper, vice president of acquisitions and development for McGrath Real Estate Partners, told Mont Belvieu’s City Council this week that in the first 143-acre section being constructed, 178 lots had been sold to home builders. Of those, 65 are being framed and roofed – what the builders call “going vertical” – and 35 of those under-construction homes have already been sold to the public.

“That’s significant, because we do not have one home finished,” Hopper said. “We have a finished model home for Highland, and the other builders are a week or a week and a half away from finishing their model homes.”

The home sales have been for $448,000 on the low end and $788,000 on the high end, he said. At least a half-dozen buyers have purchased the biggest, most expensive homes available.

He said the first of the homes should be welcoming new residents in late summer, just in time for the start of the school year.

“To have 35 homes sold on spec is a great number,” Hopper said.

Four homebuilders are signed up for what could be a 20-year venture. Besides Highland, they are Weekly Homes, Perry Homes and Chesmar Homes. They have sales offices set up along Farm Road 565, near its intersection Eagle Drive.

Hopper, whose company put the project together, said builders have told him that approximately 50 prospective homebuyers stop by the sales offices each week and that those who have already bought homes are from as far as Katy and The Woodlands and as nearby as the south side of Interstate 10, outside the Mont Belvieu city limits but in the Barbers Hill school district.

“Forty percent are younger professionals between 28 and 40 moving with their children,” Hopper said. “A lot of them are retirees who live on acreage looking to downsize or get closer to their kids.”

Hopper’s family has lived in what is now Mont Belvieu’s east end for 200 years, originally obtaining a land grant from Mexican President General Santa Anna and later, when Texas was a country from 1836 to 1945, a land grant from Texas President Mirabeau Lamar. His great-great grandfather, Theo Wilburn, was able to amass about 5,000 acres of land.

“The growth that’s happened in West Chambers County and east Baytown in the last 15-20 years is south of I-10 and the Grand Parkway is on the industrial and distribution side. So really, the housing is the last thing to follow,” he said.

“We wanted to give housing growth that is not a flash in the pan, so we don’t have something we don’t like in 20 years.”

City Council made it clear earlier in the meeting that it likes planned growth.

It denied a rezoning request for approximately 138.5 acres of land along the Grand Parkway, running north of Langston Drive. Langston Drive runs through the city’s new Hackberry Park, which extends west to the Grand Parkway, also known as State Highway 99.

The owner, Ballis Dream LLC, sought to have the zoning changed from Rural Use to Freeway Commercial so that it could use part of the land for warehouses.

As proposed, the rest of the land would house retail businesses, restaurants and a movie theater.

The mood of the council was that while they’d like retail, restaurants and entertainment, increased truck traffic and noise generated by warehouses so near the park and, on the other end of the property, residences was a deal breaker.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission had voted not to recommend this proposal recently.

By Dave Rogers, Baytown Sun